"H ashem should do with you chesed like you did with the dead ones and with me.” (Megillas Ruth 1:8)

Rav Zeira says (Yalkut Shemoni 147): “This megillah doesn’t teach us [laws of] impurity or purity what is permitted and what’s forbidden. So why was it written? To teach you the reward of those who do chesed.”

When reading Megillas Ruth one cannot help but notice the incredible levels of emunah and bitachon Ruth had. She gave up wealth and royalty to tie her future to a poor old woman whose livelihood would come from collecting stalks in the field.

There’s no doubt that this nisayon highlights Ruth’s incredible levels of faith.

But in the midrash Chazal seem to be emphasizing Ruth’s chesed as opposed to her tremendous emunah. Why? (Rav Yechezkel Levenstein Kovetz Sichos)

I’d popped over to my neighbor Dina to borrow a cup of sugar. Twenty minutes later we were still at the door enjoying a good schmooze when her phone rang.

“Sorry it’s my sister. Gotta take it.”

She motioned me inside and I sat down figuring it would be a quick phone call then I’d get my sugar and go. But the conversation continued and from the look on Dina’s face it was serious. I didn’t want to interrupt with something as mundane as my sugar.

Finally she said goodbye and I turned to her. “Wow. There’s nothing like a sister! You sounded like you were holding up her world.”

“She’s going through a hard time ” Dina said as she poured sugar. “Offering her a listening ear is the least I can do.”

When I got home I picked up the phone to call my own sister. Life gets busy but I didn’t want to wait for hard times to be there for her.

Chazal are teaching us that the middah of chesed is the main foundation for success in ruchniyus.

It’s important to understand that just giving to another isn’t necessarily pure chesed since it’s possible that we’re doing kindness just to build ourselves up.

When do we see pure chesed? When a person forgoes his own needs for the good of his friend. This teaches him how to give up his physical desires and he’s able to reach higher in all areas of ruchniyus. (ibid.)

PTA night is always an all-nighter and I was dreading the long lines. But to my delight as I approached my daughter’s classroom there was Dina.

“I haven’t seen you in ages!” I sat down next to her looking forward to catching up but couldn’t help noticing that she looked worried and withdrawn. I’ve known Dina for a long time so I asked her what’s bothering her. She hesitated a moment and then spoke.

How does one work on this middah of vatranus — of giving up your needs for someone else’s? The Sefer Hachinuch teaches us that hearts are drawn after actions. If a person tries to do small acts that inspire selflessness he’ll strengthen the roots of this middah within himself. Then he’ll be equipped to relinquish his physical needs and his faith will shine through and elevate him more. (ibid.)

“It’s my sister.” Dina looked relieved as her words poured out. “Her husband lost his job and they’re looking to relocate. She’s my only sister — we’re very close even though I’m several years older than her. So I’ve been trying to help her find the right place to move schools and possible jobs.”

“You’re really amazing!”

“I’m not feeling so amazing. The thing is in all my research our city has the best options for her in schooling and housing plus job opps. It’s best for her to move here. It’s just that it’s going to take its toll on me both physically and emotionally especially in the beginning until they’re settled.

“Don’t get me wrong. I love my sister. I just wish that my research would’ve turned up an option with a little more breathing room.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Do?” She looked surprised at the question. “I’m going to help her find a house and get settled. And when she is I’m going to sit back and enjoy the perks of having a sister close by.”

“But it’s going to be so hard for you.”

“Hey this is the best thing for her. So it’ll be the best thing for me as well. We’ll make it work.”

And they did. (Originally featured in Family First Issue 544)